Pick the right roads and driving becomes much more than a mode of transit; rather than racing to get somewhere, you can sit back and enjoy the ride. In the absence of spluttering exhaust fumes, honking horns and agitated drivers, being behind the wheel is a pleasant experience and the sense of freedom found cruising along a scenic open road is unparalleled.
From California’s Route 66 to Australia’s Great Ocean Road, our planet is criss-crossed with iconic road journeys. But there are also many recommended rides on British shores. Discover what’s on your doorstep by giving these routes a test drive.
1. North Coast 500, Scotland
Length: 516 miles
Estimated time: Three days to drive/one week to explore
The slightly chillier counterpart to California’s Route 66, The North Coast 500 in Scotland cruises around the country’s striking northern coastline. Beginning in Inverness, road trippers will find historic architecture, the odd gin distillery and perhaps even the Loch Ness monster. The Black Isle is another must-see location en route; famed for its popular food and drink, it’s also one of the best spots for dolphin spotting.
2. Atlantic Highway, West Country
Length: 200 miles
Estimated time: Six hours to drive/four days to explore
Also known as the A39, this road stretches all the way from the Devon border into the north-eastern corner of Cornwall, taking in some of the south west’s prettiest traditional fishing villages. Stretch legs by stopping off at one of the route’s impressive coastal retreats – from Bude, a triple winner in the British Travel Awards, to historic parish Tintagel, known for its connections with the legend of King Arthur.
3. Cheddar Gorge, Somerset
Length: 30 miles (round trip)
Estimated time: 45 minutes/one day to explore
Described by some as a greener UK equivalent of the Grand Canyon, Cheddar Gorge is the perfect destination for keen explorers. Britain’s largest gorge is made up of dramatic peaks and historic caves – with the latter holding fascinating secrets about our prehistoric ancestors. Before arriving at your destination, visitors can cruise through acres of English countryside, before arriving in the Somerset’s scenic Mendip Hills where the gorge is located.
4. Castle to Castle, Northumberland
Length: 26 miles
Estimated time: One hour/one day to explore
Combining three castles in one trip, this route is a history boffin’s dream. Beginning at Alnwick Castle, follow the road past sandy beaches, rolling hills and rugged moorland towards Bamburgh Castle, before finishing at Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island. This route is just 26 miles long, but with so many things to see and do along the way, you’ll have more than a day’s worth of activities to choose from.
5. The Causeway Coast Route, Northern Ireland
Length: 120 miles
Estimated journey time: One day to drive/Three days to explore
Studded with beaches, gorse-covered valleys and clifftop paths edged with fuchsia, Northern Ireland’s epic landscape can easily be enjoyed by car. This route merges with the Wild Atlantic Way and the Mourne Scenic Route, covering landscape varying from coast to mountaintops, busy cities and sleep hamlets. It’s ideal for anyone looking to pack as much into a staycation as possible.
How to get there
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